On this page, I'll share my thoughts, and any articles or information I think are of interest. Feel free to use the comments section to join in the discussion!
PLAYERS OVERWHELMINGLY SUPPORT PAPELBON IN DUST-UP WITH HARPER
Baseball writers and bloggers hate Jonathan Papelbon, at least most do. They hate him because he’s gruff, cocky and obtuse. He’s that jock bully from high school who even as adults we can’t seem to forgive. He’s got an edge to him and he doesn’t care what you or I think about him.
So when opinions came in on the Bryce Harper-Papelbon scuffle in the Washington Nationals dugout almost all of them were anti-Papelbon. They love Harper, hate Papelbon … and all objectivity was lost.
Let’s break this thing down from a place that has no preconceived notions on either of these players.
The only history that matters is recent history. Papelbon thought he was making friends last week when he took it upon himself to hit Manny Machado with a fastball in a game where Machado had homered earlier. The assumption is that Papelbon thought Machado admired his home run too long and was due a high-and-tight fastball.
This column isn’t about debating that night. What’s done is done and Papelbon thought he endeared himself to his teammates by doing what he thought was right. But he didn’t, at least not to one teammate in particular.
Harper seemed to take exception to Papelbon’s actions.
"I mean, Manny freaking hit a homer,” Harper told the media after that game Wednesday night. “Walked it off, and somebody drilled him. I mean, it's pretty tired. It's one of those situations where it happens, and, I don't know, I'll probably get drilled tomorrow."
That somebody was Papelbon. Harper didn’t call him out by name but we obviously know he was referring to his closer teammate of about two months.
Harper is free to disagree with Papelbon; the mistake came in airing his grievance to the media. That’s a conversation that happens between teammates, not in front of a microphone and a camera. You can bet Papelbon, at 34 years old with 11 major-league seasons under his belt, didn’t take too kindly to the 22-year-old Harper’s comments.
The line was drawn by Harper: Calling out teammates publicly is OK.
Fast forward to Sunday. Leading off the bottom of the eighth inning and with the score tied 4-4, Harper flew out to left field but did not hustle out of the batter’s box. It was the same thing he was taken out of a game for in April of 2014. At the time the media crushed manager Matt Williams for being hard on the then 21-year-old Harper.
Manager Terry Francona in Cleveland removed rookie Francisco Lindor from a game earlier this year for not running out a popup. Francona told me Lindor was so ashamed by what he did and how we drew attention to it on TV (It was an FS1 game) that he vowed to never let it happen again.
After Harper’s lack of hustle Sunday, Papelbon was waiting for him on the top step of the dugout, ready to return the favor to Harper for all to see. Papelbon immediately began verbally peppering Harper about his effort level and embarrassment to the team. As Harper reached the bottom of the stairs and turned the corner he bit back at Papelbon, the same guy he called “tired” a few days earlier to the media. Papelbon wasn’t having it and the scuffle was on.
So who’s to blame? I don’t play the “I played and you didn’t” card unless I think it is warranted; this is clearly a situation where playing experience matters. The clubhouse is like no other place. It’s not like an office, and it’s not like your weekend softball team. Don’t compare a clubhouse to where you work, it’s completely different. But even with my experience I have a checks-and-balances system. It’s easy to lose sight of what the game was like the further you get away from it, so I polled well more than a dozen former and current players I know about what happened Sunday in Washington.
Not one fully backed Bryce Harper. Not one. Some of what I was told ...
● Pap did what should have been done three years ago. Veteran players should be doing this across the league.
● Right intentions, horrible timing by Pap.
● I would have done the same thing if I were Papelbon.
● Bryce is a great player. He's a true superstar. But he's not above playing the game the right way. I'm glad someone finally told him that.
● I am perfectly OK with Pap’s reaction. I can understand some people having a problem with the timing. At the same time this guy is the MVP.
● Kid has been allowed to loaf for the past two years. Williams got crucified for benching him last year; media and fans took Bryce’s side so he kept doing it and wasn’t getting punished. Veteran finally said something; kid ran his mouth at the wrong guy and got beat up.
● Do it behind closed doors. However, it needed to be done.
● As a teammate you always feel you have the right to say something to someone if you feel it’s wrong or hurts the club. Right after the popup is not the best time to call out a hitter.
● We all know how Harper has behaved since he got called up. But when you’re at that level (MVP for me) why would you not run? It’s not the first time! And why did his manager take him out of the game (after the scuffle)?!?
● You saw Pap say you should run it out which is 100 percent true. I get Harper is frustrated about the at-bat and result but still he’s gotta run it out ... and I don't think the whole Pap hitting Machado the other day and Harper saying what he did helped the whole thing. Pap was probably just waiting for something to happen so he could criticize Harper. If somebody else said, “you need to run it out” I don't think that whole thing would have happened.
● I agree with Pap calling Harper out — hustling and continuous work ethic creates champions. He got the response most players would have probably given from the exchange. Should have been handled in the clubhouse.
● As much as I hate to say it, Albert, Papi and Miggy have earned the right not to run out every ball. Partly age, respect and risk of injury. Harper is 22, he hasn’t earned it.
● I believe if Papelbon was not questioned for his recent actions on the Machado beaning and his other stuff of his past, most people would love what he did. I still loved it and it needed to happen.
● He quit on his team after the fight, just like he does on popups.
These quotes are the most objective and knowledgeable viewpoint you’ll get on this matter. These are from current and former players who don’t have a bias and come from perspectives closer to the current game than anything else you’ve read. These guys clearly respect the player that Harper is, but not the way he’s handled himself at times in his career, especially on Sunday.
Papelbon is everybody’s favorite punching bag but it’s not deserved here. This is a game that governs itself; it always has and always will. No one is above giving his full effort every time. When you don’t, there will be a veteran teammate there waiting to remind you. Sometimes that might result in a fight and that’s OK. This is not your office.
Atlanta Braves' Peter Moylan is probably a lot cooler than you
Atlanta Braves reliever Peter Moylan is 36. He’s been a major-league pitcher for nearly a decade, but is far from a household name. Braves fans know him and serious baseball fans likely do too. But he’s probably not getting talked about on Baseball Tonight or MLB Whiparound any time soon.
And it’s a shame. Moylan’s one of baseball’s great stories on and off the field. Former NFL quarterback Kurt Warner is famous for going from grocery store checker to Super Bowl Champion, and Astros designated hitter Evan Gattis‘ history of odd jobs along the way has also been well-documented. Moylan’s story make not be of the same extremity, but it certainly falls off the lower branches of the same tree.
Moylan signed with the Braves in 2006, but his MLB story starts much earlier. He was signed by the Minnesota Twins out of Australia in 1996, posted underwhelming numbers in two seasons of rookie ball, and was ultimately released in 1998.
Here’s the Warner/Gattis part: After being released, he went back to Australia and sold pharmaceuticals.
The next time Moylan’s name was mentioned state-side in terms of baseball was eight years later. He was on the Australian World Baseball Classic team, and pitched well enough to earn a Spring Training invite from the Atlanta Braves. To conclude the off-the-field marveling here, he’s still in a big-league uniform a decade later. But go to the mound now, and Moylan’s intrigue continues.
Moylan was assigned to the Braves’ AAA affiliate out of spring in 2006, but proceeded to make his major-league debut less than a month into the season. Injuries to Horacio Ramirez and Blaine Boyer forced the Braves to start the year with Joey Devine andKen Ray on the big-league team, both of whom were originally slated to pitch alongside Moylan in the AAA bullpen. Devine, a former first-round pick by Atlanta, had struggled in his first cup of coffee in the bigs the previous year, and did so again early on in 2006.
So Devine was sent back to AAA on April 11, and Moylan was subsequently called up. He made his debut the next day on April 12, a decade after originally signing with the Minnesota Twins as an 18-year-old. He pitched a shutout inning in Atlanta’s 7-5 loss to the Phillies, throwing nine of 16 pitches for strikes and making David Delluci his first big-league strikeout victim.
The first batter Moylan faced in his debut? Ryan Howard, who would go on to win the National League MVP award that year. He got him to pop out. Welcome to the big leagues, Peter Moylan.
The Aussie would go on to give up no earned runs in 12 of 15 appearances on the season, though a trio of rough outings would leave his season ERA at a misleading 4.80. He struck out 14 batters in 15.0 innings, but did run into troubles with walks.
The strikeout numbers went down and the walk numbers went slightly up, but Moylan somehow managed to turn the next season into one of the better relief campaigns in Atlanta Braves history. He made 80 appearances in 2007, pitching to a 1.80 ERA in 90 innings while finishing 16 games and picking up is first career save.
But the innings caught up to Moylan in 2008, as he was placed on the disabled list with elbow troubles, only to find that he needed surgery on his ulna collateral ligament (UCL). He would miss the rest of the 2008 campaign recovering from Tommy JohnSurgery, though he impressed once again in a small sample size before getting hurt.
2009 would kick off Moylan’s run putting together arguably the grittiest multi-year stretch a Braves reliever has ever pieced together. Fresh off his Tommy John, Moylan bounced back to appear in 87 games, bringing his strikeout numbers back up and allowing just 23 runs in 73 innings. He also went the entire season without giving up a home run, setting the major-league record for most consecutive appearances without allowing a long ball.
He would go on to have a similarly successful campaign in 2010, once again logging over 80 appearances and pitching to a sub-3.00 ERA. Moylan’s back-to-back 80+ appearance-seasons were the first time a reliever had accomplished the feat in Braves franchise history. In spite of all that, Moylan was left off the National League All-Star team in both 2009 and 2010.
Injuries got him again the following season, as he made just 13 appearances due to mid-season back surgery and a torn rotator cuff late in the year. Recovery from the rotator cuff injury carried into 2012, allowing Moylan to pitch just eight games for Atlanta that year. The “injury-prone” label caught up with Moylan the following offseason, as he ultimately had to sign a minor-league deal with the Dodgers and made just 14 appearances with the major-league team. He signed with the Astros in the winter of 2013, but tore his UCL once again in Spring Training and was released before the 2014 season.
That’s where his reunion with the Braves begins. March of this year, Atlanta signed Moylan to a two-year minor-league deal, with the idea being that he would spend much of 2015 coaching minor-league pitchers while he recovered from his Tommy John surgery. But Moylan got healthy faster than expected, and against all odds, earned himself a call-up to the Braves in August. Moylan and every other Atlanta pitcher won’t be getting a shot at the postseason this year, but the 36-year-old has come full circle and is under contract with the Braves for 2016.
If the back story isn’t enough to make you love Moylan, perhaps his outfit during this 2011 clip of “Side Session with Peter Moylan and Kris Medlen” is enough to get you on board. Or the time he did his hair to look like John Smoltz. Or his epic sleeve tats. Or his sick goggles. Or the time his facial hair one-upped, or “raised the bar,” after then-Dodgers teammate Scott Van Slyke sported a full-on Fu Man Chu. The man is part myth, part man, part tattoo, part mustache, part pitcher and all Aussie. And it’s hard to find a part of him that isn’t entirely, as How I Met Your Mother’s Barney Stinson would put it, “legendary.”
Lucas Duda: A Diamond In The Rough
by Ben Tarhan26 September 2015
When a professional baseball team is stuck in a series of losing seasons, it’s a painful time for their fans. The losing is hard to watch, but what’s worse is falling in love with mediocre players who clearly aren’t talented enough to amount to a Major League regular.
It is these journeymen and future journeymen that make losing seasons entertaining for fans but also that much more heartbreaking. Whether it’s a veteran player past their prime or an overachieving prospect who doesn’t have the tools to become more than a bench player, realizing that these players won’t be on the roster for the next playoff after watching them toil away for last place teams hurts.
But sometimes, those players pan out. They might play a few unproductive seasons for bad teams in the major leagues, and then it clicks.
The Mets have such a player on their roster: Lucas Duda.
Duda is far from being a superstar player, and in a National League loaded with first basemen, he probably isn’t even an All Star. But he’s a productive, power-hitting first baseman.
Duda first came up in 2010, and the Mets decided to play him the outfield to take advantage of his raw power despite his natural position being first base. He was a disaster in the outfield. In just 192 innings in left field in 2010, he cost the Mets three runs by UZR. In 2011, 364.1 innings in the outfield cost the Mets 11.3 runs. The Mets trotted Duda out as an outfielder for a good part of three seasons, and it cost them almost 50 runs.
What Duda cost them as a defender, he wasn’t making up at the plate. Despite semi-productive seasons, including a 2011 rookie season where he posted a 136 wRC+, he didn’t hit nearly enough to make up for his sub par glove. Although Duda had never hit more than 17 home runs in any minor league season, he always had an immense amount of raw power that the Mets hoped he would realize.
Duda was drafted in the seventh round out of USC by the Mets in 2007, and seemed likely to break out every season after his debut. But until 2014, he was really never any good despite playing in at least 100 games from 2011-2013. Despite hitting better than average by wRC+, his defense was terrible and his power never panned out the way scouts thought it would.
Had the Mets been competitive in any of those seasons, Duda likely wouldn’t be on the roster now. He would have been packaged into some deal to a team that could afford to have him on their 40-man roster, designated for assignment, or just not resigned to a minor league deal.
But the Mets’ mediocrity actually played in their favor. Despite three seasons of underachievement from Duda, something clicked in 2014. The Mets traded Ike Davisearly in the season, making Duda the everyday first baseman. The move to his natural position helped Duda’s bat, as he split .253/.349/.481, 36 percent better than average for 2014. He hit his 30th home run on the last day of the season, a day after hitting a walk off home run for his 29th.
In 2015, Duda started the season off hot, but proved to have a streaky season. On an injury ridden Mets team that lost both David Wright and Travis d’Arnaud before the end of April, Duda and Curtis Granderson were the only serious offensive threats for the first four months of the season. Despite little protection around him, Duda showed flashes of brilliance, including a red hot run at the end of July that featured nine home runs in eight games.
He appeared poised to break the 30 home run plateau for the second season in a row before hitting the disabled list for two weeks at the end of August and a sluggish start upon his return.
Duda was a late bloomer. An unheralded college draft pick who didn’t exactly fly through the minor leagues. By the time he received a September call up in 2010, he was already 24.
At this point, he is a 29 year old who has just figured it out. There is a precedent for late blooming power hitters finding success in the Major Leagues, both Josh Donaldson and Jose Bautista are great examples.
Duda’s emergence was also timed perfectly with the Mets’ rise to relevance. They’re poised to clinch their first National League East title since 2006 this weekend, and the front office will have to make some sort of move this offseason to keep the offense competent in 2016. In short, Duda shouldn’t be left as vulnerable in the lineup in the next few season as he was this year.
Although losing seasons are naturally painful for fans to endure, they aren’t always all bad, even if there isn’t a top prospect making a debut. Just keep an eye on those high upside players who wouldn’t get an opportunity on a competing team, they might just surprise you.
Bannister gives new view to Sox hurlers
Sunday, September 27, 2015 By:Scott Lauber
Brian Bannister was never supposed to pitch in the big leagues.
Bannister began his college career as a walk-on at the University of Southern California in 2000. Two years later, he had arthroscopic elbow surgery, which didn’t help his barely 90-mph fastball. The Mets drafted him in 2003, and for four seasons in the minors, he never appeared on any top prospect lists.
But there he was in 2007, going 12-9 with a 3.87 ERA in 27 starts for the Royals, finishing third in AL Rookie of the Year voting and surprising absolutely everyone — even himself.
So, Bannister went home to California and dug deeper into his success. He had always been drawn to numbers, and much to his delight, advanced metrics were becoming more available in the form of PitchF/X. What he found, quite simply, was that he was both good and lucky. Opponents batted .262 on balls in play, well below the median .300, leading him to conclude he needed to increase his strikeout rate if he was going to sustain his success in 2008.
“My own shortcomings as a pitcher were what drove me to work even harder at the art of pitching,” said Bannister, promoted three weeks ago by the Red Sox to director of pitching analysis and development, a newly created position under president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski. “It was just a fortunate coincidence that pitch data information arrived in the major leagues at the start of my own career. I have spent thousands and thousands of hours diving into the data and evaluating its usefulness. It has helped dispel many pitching myths for me, while also revealing insights that I have never heard spoken about or that run contrary to popular belief. Pitch data is just a tool, but when utilized along with a deep knowledge of biomechanics and more modern baseball statistics, the combination can be very powerful in helping pitchers reach their ceiling.”
The Red Sox can use all the help they can get.
Since 2007, American League rivals have developed aces, including the White Sox (Chris Sale), Indians (Corey Kluber), Astros (Dallas Keuchel), Angels (Garrett Richards) and A’s (Sonny Gray). The Rays’ homegrown pitching pipeline has stretched from James Shields and David Price to Jeremy Hellickson,Alex Cobb, Matt Moore and Chris Archer. Even the Yankees have gotten valuable innings over the years from the likes of Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova.
The Red Sox? Not since Clay Buchholz debuted in 2007 have they developed a pitcher who has made a long-lasting impact on the starting rotation. The closest thing was Felix Doubront, who gave them three solid months in 2013 before fizzling.
And that’s where Bannister comes in.
“We’ve tried to create what, I think, is probably a unique position,” Dombrowski said. “It’s a position that’s going to talk about, be in charge of developing players through an analytic approach and also pitching philosophy. (Bannister) will give us an edge.”
To understand Bannister’s philosophy, you must know his background as the son of a former No. 1 overall pick.Floyd Bannister was a classic power pitcher who won 134 games in the big leagues over 15 seasons. Brian grew up around the game and often got a front-row seat in the bullpen when Tom Seaver and Nolan Ryanthrew between starts, a memory he says is “forever etched into my mind.”
Brian Bannister wasn’t blessed with his dad’s talent. But he reached the big leagues because he was a student of pitching at a time when there was more data than ever to study. With the Royals, he befriended right-handerZack Greinke. And when Greinke won the Cy Young Award in 2009, he credited Bannister for helping him understand advanced metrics such as “expected fielding independent pitching” — xFIP, for short — which focuses on outcomes that aren’t dependent upon defense and is therefore considered a more reliable measure of a pitcher’s success than ERA.
But Bannister chuckles at being labeled “an analytics guy.” Analytics are only part of the equation, according to Bannister, who says he gained an appreciation for biomechanics after working with former Mets pitching coachRick Peterson. Bannister also deems himself “a proponent of unorthodox mechanics and funky movements as long as it results in effective pitches.”
Ultimately, not even Bannister’s love of data could compensate for his talent deficiency. Throwing more four-seam fastballs didn’t result in more strikeouts in 2008 because he lacked the velocity to overpower hitters. He had more success with a cutter in 2009, but never duplicated his rookie year. His ERA climbed to 5.76 in 2008 and leveled off at 4.73 in 2009 before he tore the rotator cuff in his right shoulder. By 2011, after a brief stint in Japan, he retired.
The Sox hired Bannister in January as a pro scout. Throughout the season, he offered input to pitching coachCarl Willis on several issues, including helping to identify the source of rookie lefty Eduardo Rodriguez’ pitch-tipping and stressing to Joe Kelly the importance of using his changeup and curveball rather than relying almost exclusively on a high-90s fastball.
“He’s very good at what he does,” Willis said of Bannister. “He wasn’t a guy that had plus-plus velocity or that wipeout pitch. He had to learn how to pitch, learn how to create movement and do things with the baseball, and I think that really ties in well to what he’s gotten into with the analytics to kind of get ahead of the curve and determine what a guy can and can’t do.”
In his new role, Bannister will be charged with more of the same, from analyzing the performance of Red Sox pitchers to advising Dombrowski on which pitchers to pursue in trades and free agency. Above all, Bannister will examine the Sox’ process for developing pitchers and try to figure out where they have gone wrong.
“I spend a significant amount of my time identifying a pitcher’s strengths and weaknesses, and then crafting an individualized plan for helping them get to the highest level possible,” Bannister said. “Each pitcher is a puzzle, with different physical attributes, arm slots, velocities and movements, and I don’t believe in putting all of them into the same box. One of the challenges we face in developing pitchers is that so many young kids pitch the same way — with cookie-cutter pitches. The lack of creativity and thirst for velocity has helped the relievers but hurt the starters, and teams have been forced to adapt to this new reality. Finding a balance between velocity and pitchability is essential to regularly developing top-of-the-rotation starters and is one of my favorite topics in pitching.”
There isn’t much about pitching that Bannister doesn’t enjoy talking about. And as the Red Sox seek to build a team that will contend every year, figuring out how to better develop pitching will be the silver bullet.
"Educational background is one aspect but actual experience and intellectual curiosity is more relevant,"
Tom Haudricourt | On Baseball
A good education another tool in modern GM's toolbox
An Ivy League education can open the door to a multitude of high-class opportunities for graduates seeking to make an impact in the world.
You can be a Nobel prize-winning scientist, a heralded mathematician, a high-profile lawyer, a groundbreaking physician, the CEO of a major corporation and even President of the United States.
Or you can be the general manager of a major-league baseball team.
When the Brewers named 30-year-old David Stearns as their new GM last Monday, it continued a trend in recent years of prioritizing education in filling that position in the majors. A 2007 graduate of Harvard, Stearns — who was assistant general manager in Houston — became the seventh current GM with an Ivy League degree, and by far the youngest.
That group grew to eight members a few days later when Boston promoted Mike Hazen (Princeton) to its GM position, joining Stearns, Colorado's Jeff Bridich (Harvard), Houston's Jeff Luhnow (Penn), San Diego's A.J. Preller (Cornell), Tampa Bay's Matthew Silverman (Harvard), Texas' Jon Daniels (Cornell) and the New York Mets' Sandy Alderson (Dartmouth), though he is a generation ahead of those other gentlemen.
That list doesn't include the Los Angeles Dodgers' Farhan Zaidi, who went to MIT, which is basically the same thing. The Chicago White Sox's Rick Hahn graduated from Michigan but also went to Harvard Law School and to graduate school at Northwestern.
And let's not forget Chicago Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein (Yale), who got this ball rolling in 2002 when he was named general manager of the Boston Red Sox at age 28.
At the very least, you might want to go to Amherst, a highly regarded liberal arts college in Massachusetts. Baltimore's Dan Duquette and Pittsburgh's Neal Huntington went there, as did outgoing Boston GM Ben Cherington. Former Detroit GM Dave Dombrowski, who took over the baseball operation in Boston and named Hazen to replace Cherington, enrolled at Cornell but somehow got away with transferring to Western Michigan.
Brewers principal owner Mark Attanasio, an Ivy League double-dipper (Brown and Columbia), used the search firm Korn Ferry to produce a list of GM candidates. Most of the finalists, including Tampa Bay's Chaim Bloom (Yale) and Oakland's Dan Kantrovitz (Brown and Harvard), were cut from the same educational cloth.
So, do you have to be a brainiac to be a GM? Are you wasting your time applying if you went to Arkansas, Miami, Texas A&M, or even highly rated educational institutions such as Virginia (yours truly) or Notre Dame?
"Educational background is one aspect but actual experience and intellectual curiosity is more relevant," said Attanasio. "I don't know where (Oakland's) Billy Beane went to college but he probably was the most innovative GM out there for a long time."
Actually, Beane didn't go to college. He was a high school outfielder taken in the first round of the 1980 draft by the New York Mets whose career never materialized on the field. He joined the Oakland organization as a scout in 1990 and rose to the position of GM in a mere seven years.
Without benefit of a college education, Beane led the "Moneyball" revolution in which statistical analysis became more broadly used in evaluating players. Now known as "baseball analytics," that concept has become increasingly valued to the point where Ivy League backgrounds are almost a must to be considered GM material.
Outgoing Brewers general manager Doug Melvin, like Beane, never went to college, instead going right into baseball as a player out of high school. When his career stalled as a minor-leaguer in the New York Yankees' system, Melvin was offered a job that included throwing batting practice and serving as an "eye in the sky" spotter from the stands during games.
Melvin eventually joined the Yankees' scouting department and later spent nearly a decade as assistant general manager and director of player development for the Baltimore Orioles before being hired by the Texas Rangers at age 42 to be their GM in 1994.
The only other current GM without a college background is Arizona's Dave Stewart, another high school draft pick who was hired by old friend and former manager Tony La Russa to lead the Diamondbacks' baseball operation. Stewart is the only African-American active in that role.
It is possible to succeed as a big-league GM without an Ivy League background. San Francisco's Brian Sabean, whose teams won three of the last five World Series before he was kicked upstairs to executive vice president, went to Eckerd College in Florida.
Terry Ryan, who in his first stint as Minnesota's general manager ran what was considered the model for all small-market franchises, retired but later returned to help make the Twins competitive again. Ryan went to Wisconsin, so chalk one up for Bucky Badger.
St. Louis general manager John Mozeliak, who at 48 falls between the "old schoolers" and "whiz kids," runs the operation that is the envy of baseball, going to the playoffs year after year. Where did he attend college? Colorado.
"However you get there, you get there," said Attanasio. "There is a trend in this direction, but one of the beauties of the sport (is that) a lot of teams with Ivy League-educated GMs have a lot of old-time baseball people around them."
Which is how the game has flip-flopped at the top level. Melvin and other older general managers added analytics experts to their baseball operations to keep up with the times. Now, we've got young, analytic-driven GMs adding old-school baseball people to their staffs to provide hands-on experience.
Being the smartest guy in the room doesn't necessarily mean you're going to have success as a general manager. During his introductory news conference, Stearns noted there is no magical, esoteric formula for producing a winning baseball team, Ivy League degree or not.
"The philosophy of building a sustainable playoff team is not a secret," he said. "You need to acquire, develop and keep controllable, young talent. If you look at the sustainably competitive teams throughout the industry, regardless of market size and city, that's what they have to do."
Stearns, who had his hand in nearly all aspects of the Astros' baseball department during his three years there, made it clear he would lean on Melvin, who will remain on the team's payroll in an advisory role.
"I'm going to need Doug's advice," said Stearns. "He knows where all the bodies are buried, so to speak.
"The key with balancing all the sources you get in the front office is doing the best job you can to acquire as much information on all sides of the ledger, whether it's scouting evaluations, analytical assessment, medical information, and get into an everyday process that's consistent and yields results.
"I don't know if there's an Ivy League correlation or not. There are a lot of non-Ivy Leaguers (as GMs). There's an emphasis on business acumen within the front office, but it takes a variety of different skill sets to run a successful baseball operations department.
"The game evolves and goes in waves. I don't know if it's an ongoing thing."
Perhaps not, but it's certainly fashionable right now.